It’s December, and while we were still revelling in the magnificence of the 2017 Angel of Death collection; Ara Kani stunned us on what’s in store for us from the brand in 2018. On the 2nd of this month, the designer establishment teased us on their social media pages with The New Ara Kani Jean Collection, which will be available in February.
Follow : @CulxureMagZim
Undoubtedly, the label has vision and direction; understands the business of fashion and continues to reach pinnacles which most designers only dream of. I had the honour of chatting with the Ara Kani founder, Nkululeko Ncube; who was very gracious in letting us in on what he attributes to the brand’s success. Take a look.
What’s the key to a flourishing career in fashion?
I can say it’s just consistency and originality. If you have that then any brand can be successful.
Speaking of success, the recognition that Ara Kani receives, such as the 2017 Bulawayo Arts Awards nomination, isn’t a novelty. Where else has your work been acknowledged or featured; and what does it mean to you to receive positive feedback?
I have won Best Male Designer at the Matabeleland Fashion Show and I’ve been nominated for Best Couture Designer at the Style Oracle Awards.
Ara Kani has been around! We have done Durban Fashion Fair, SA Men’s Wear Week, Mozambique Fashion Week, Harare International Fashion Show and Clothing Indaba. We’ve also been to Lesotho. Ara Kani can also be found in the pages of Stitch Magazine, and the cover of Jewel magazine. We’ve also appeared on The Expresso Show, BET Buzz and mentions on Enca News.
I always appreciate feedback even when it isn’t positive as this only helps me get better as a designer. Positive feedback uplifts and keeps me motivated. It’s always great to know that people appreciate your work.
What makes you different from other brands?
Firstly, I think it’s because Ara Kani is a streetwear “designer” brand and there ain’t many of us out here. Also, since the brand is unisex, it provides more clientele and followership from both sexes so our market is broader than other brands that only design for one specific gender.
How do you manage to please the consumer while staying true to your vision as a brand? How do you stay updated on current trends?
I’ve managed to stick with, and stay true to my vision as a brand from Day One. This is because I’ve refused to follow trends. I just design what I feel like designing and strategically sell it to the consumer; making them buy into the vision of the brand. It’s become easier now because it’s what’s expected from the brand now.
Yes, we never expect the expected from the Ara Kani brand; it breaks the barriers of conventionality and has a fresh take on style. What led to the Angels of Death collection, and why does Ara Kani have this passionate love affair with the colour black?
The colour black is a personal favourite because it’s the brand’s theme. I always wear black because I find bright colours depressing. So that’s how the Ara Kani pieces became black. With Angels of Death, the collection is “angelic” but I didn’t want it in the obvious white. Black is associated with the dark world and death; hence its name.
#WearBlackOrStayNaked is a hashtag used thanks to Ara Kani social media pages. You have a growing social media following. How important is technology and social media networking in the fashion business?
Social media is very important in any business. You constantly have to engage with your audience and not starve them off content or updates on the business. Take Instagram for instance, you should post at least 3 times a week so that people don’t forget you. Also, you have to have content that people actually like; not just posting for the sake of posting.
How does one grow and consistently engage an audience/clientele? How do I go from 2 likes/views to a thousand?
You need to engage with each and every one of your audience as if they were the only one commenting on whatever post you put up; make them feel special and appreciated. Do not ignore people on your page because you are a brand.
Do you remember when you first became aware of fashion?
I’m not really sure but I think it started when I was in high school and I’d cut and redesign all the clothes my parents bought for me.
I did a little stalking lol and found that you learnt at Njube High and Speciss College. Did your environment influence your style, and how? Where do you find your inspiration?
I’m a boy from ekasi (the township) and I can safely say my environment DID NOT influence my style. Where I’m from, a male fashion designer wasn’t celebrated (maybe it’s different now but back then that was the case). You’d be called names because what you were about wasn’t “manly.” I guess that’s what drove me and pushed me to excel at my craft and make something out of it.
I’m inspired by everyday people, struggles and stories around me.
Did you gain any technical training or are you self-taught? Is it necessary to attain some form of training as a designer, or one can succeed in the industry purely through talent alone?
I went to Speciss to learn pattern cutting, not designing. I can’t say it’s unnecessary to attain some form of training as a designer but I also don’t believe that the art of designing can be “taught.” Still, I would encourage designers with talent to get some form of training, as talent nurtured along with education is gold.
Who is your favourite designer of all time?
Alexander McQueen without a doubt. Such a legend and creative genius at a very young age.
Thank you very much for taking time in this Q &A, such an honour.